Whether a trout fly fishing fly imitates a food source or stimulates a strike response, or why trout bite bits of thread, yarn, and metal at all is worthy of consideration for everyone from trout fly fishing novices to experts. What observations should you make and what questions should you ask to become a better fly fisher? Frequent readers of our material know we’re all about making fly fishing more accessible. We think it should be easier (and less expensive) to start, easier to ramp up and become more successful, and easier to make the most of your precious time on the water. Frequent readers also know we always say that, or something like it, in the first paragraph. On to the fun stuff!
Why does a trout take a fly? Why on the top sometimes? Why only on the bottom some days? How does age and size affect reason and feeding frequency? What about fly choice or drag/drift/speed? Folks you could write books on SUB chapters under these questions, and many others better and more knowledgeable than I already have. I’ll be up front with my purpose here- I am merely posing questions that I hope will spark observation and perhaps generate a sliver of an answer for YOU on your LOCAL water. I’m hoping the next time a trout takes your fly, after the thrill, after the net and the release, in that quiet moment after, you might ask yourself: WHY? Why did that just happen? Addressing these questions will make you a better trout fly fisher!
One of my most memorable trout ever taken was holding in a tiny little rivulet of a small offshoot of a major river in just a few inches of water under low overhanging branches. I would have bet there wasn’t’ a fish in that tiny little hole! It was rising aggressively to something I couldn’t’ see. I’d had a pleasant day thus far with some rod bending behind me and was excited to take a shot at a specific feeding fish. It was a difficult sidearm cast to say the least (remember the low branches). I watched that fish rise an inch or two away from my fly more times than I care to remember. Excitement was transforming into frustration. Perhaps 50 casts and at least 6 fly changes later, with what I believed to be the right cast with the perfect no drag drift over the feeding zone, I hooked, fought, and landed him. The fish wasn’t huge, a nice strong 14” rainbow, and the fight was exciting but nothing remarkable happened. It will always be one of my most memorable fish. There was a puzzle to be solved coupled with some tricky and repetitive casting, and I had pieced it together (or lucked into it). The largest trout I’ve ever been lucky enough to catch on fly were always a little unexpected, a nice surprise. It’s the puzzles we solve that are the richest and freshest memories.
Why on that cast, that drift, that fly, in those conditions (weather, water, time, temp, season, location, etc.), did that specific trout take your hook? The complexity of the variables boggles the mind. How could we ever hope to replicate that perfect moment? I believe most experienced trout fishers understand that’s half the fun.
This will be as series of articles (remember the book comment earlier) where I hope to pose some of the observations and questions we recommend you make or ask on why a trout took that fly in that moment. Having at least a theory on why you got a strike on that fly/day/conditions/situation will make you MUCH more successful as you test that theory in the future. You’ll be able to begin to fill in the blanks to the answers to the following questions:
Fly Selection: Imitate or stimulate? Size? Color? Water type? Target species or general?
Conditions (one of my favorites): Location, season, time of day, water temp, weather pattern, water type, etc.
Fly Presentation: Depth, speed, drag, rig construction and its effect on presentation, retrieval technique
Target species: How different size, age, and species of trout affect feeding habits and presentation required
We’ll dig a little deeper into each of these topics separately in the following series of articles to offer a simple framework to enjoy, observe, learn, choose the best fly, catch more fish, and make the most of your precious time on the water! Stay tuned!
Tight lines, firstname.lastname@example.org